florisugent (flōrə¦süjənt)

Hi everyone, I hope you enjoyed last week’s post! I wanted to share more hummingbird pictures from Costa Rica with you so I thought I would continue our *trochiline theme.

Hummingbirds are florisugent – if we break down the word “florisugent” into its root components, we can easily decipher the meaning of this word. Flor is the Latin root for flower and -sugent is the Latin root meaning to suck. Florisugent means to suck nectar from a flower.

The long thin bills of hummingbirds are specially adapted to draw nectar from brightly colored flowers. In fact, the shape of a hummingbird’s bill determines what type of flower it can feed on. Even though a large percentage of their diet is nectar, hummingbirds also feed on various insects such as ants and flies.

Can you think of any other words that contain the Latin root flor? Comment and let me know!

*trochiline: relating to hummingbirds

apodiformes (əˌpädəˈfȯrˌmēz)

Hi friends! I recently returned from a spring break trip to Costa Rica, a beautiful country in Central America. Costa Rica is an extremely biodiverse country – while I was there, I saw two-toed sloths, capuchin monkeys, keel-billed toucans, coatis, agoutis and much more. One of the best places to view wildlife in Costa Rica is at the famed Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. The Hummingbird Garden at the Reserve is an amazing place to spot different types of hummingbirds – my favorite birds to photograph.

There are 54 types of hummingbirds in Costa Rica. Hummingbirds belong to an order of birds called apodiformes. “Apodiformes” contains the Greek prefix a-, meaning not and the Greek root pod- meaning foot. It also includes the Latin ending -iform meaning in the shape of. Based on these roots, we can infer that hummingbirds have small (almost nonexistent) feet. And indeed, they have incredibly tiny feet and legs, and as a result, they cannot walk.

During the past year, I’ve discovered a new interest in wildlife photography. Hummingbirds are particularly challenging to photograph because they are so frenetic and elusive. That being said, I hope you enjoy my hummingbird pictures!

Guayaquil (gwī-ə-ˈkēl)

My family and I recently came back from a brilliant trip to Ecuador. We spent most of our time in the Galapagos Archipelago but we were able to spend some time in  Guayaquil. Although Quito is the political capital of Ecuador, Guayaquil is the main trade and financial center of the country. Guayaquil is a bustling city of 4 million people who speak Spanish, Quechua and many other indigenous languages.

During a city tour of Guayaquil, our guide told us the fascinating tale of the origin of this beautiful city’s name. It is said that Guayaquil comes from Guayas, a brave Indian chief, and Quil, his beloved wife. Refusing to surrender to the Spanish conquistadors, Guayas killed his wife and then drowned himself – they would rather die than be ruled by the Spanish.  Francisco de Orellana, a Spanish conquistador is credited with putting down the native rebellions and founding the city of Guayaquil on July 25, 1538. We were lucky to be there during the city’s Founding Day celebrations and witnessed many special events throughout the city commemorating the special occasion.

I love the story of Guayas and Quil but it is interesting to note that Guayaquil could also come from the aboriginal roots Gua (large), Ya (House), and Quil (Our) meaning “our big house.” Whatever the origin of the name, Guayaquil is an interesting city with a complex history.

If you watched the 2018 Scripps Spelling Bee, you may remember that Guayaquil was used in the Finals. I hope you enjoyed this post and pictures!

discreet (də̇ˈskrēt) vs. discrete (dəˈskrēt)

 

This is a guest post by Aisha R. from California who participated in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2016 and 2017.

Hi everyone! My name is Aisha and I am a 12 year old 7th grader. When Tara announced that she was doing a homonym theme on her blog, I was quick to volunteer to write a guest post.

An interesting pair of homonyms that I found are discrete (detached or separate) and discreet (prudent, modest, or unobtrusive). Both words come from the Latin verb discernere which means to separate or to distinguish. Unfortunately, the shared etymology makes these words difficult to differentiate.

A good way to remember the definition for the word discrete is that the two e’s in the word are separated by the t. Here is a picture to help you remember this trick.

discrete memory trick

Thank you Aisha, for taking the time to share this pair of homophones with us and your trick to remembering how to spell discrete. It is  interesting to note that the word “discern” (to recognize or identify as separate or distinct) also comes from the Latin verb discernere.

 

 

complacent (kəm-plā-sənt) vs. complaisant (kəm-plā-sənt)

 

Let’s kick off our homonym theme with a pare pair of adjectives that I find to be particularly tricky. The words complacent and complaisant are homophones as well as heterographs. As you may recall, homophones are words that sound the same, but are defined differently, while heterographs have the same pronunciation but different spellings and meanings.

Both words are derived from the Latin infinitive complacere meaning to please. Complaisant means “a desire to please,” whereas complacent means “pleased with one’s self” or “self-satisfied,” and usually has a negative connotation. To make it more confusing, one of the definitions of complacent IS complaisant! However, if you use the word complacent to mean “willingness to please or oblige others”, linguists will probably label it incorrect.

Stay tuned for another tricky homonym pear pair soon!

 

 

 

syzygy (si-zə-jē)

On August 21, 2017, millions of people in North America witnessed a rare astronomical event – a total eclipse of the Sun. This occurs when the Moon’s orbit aligns with the Earth and Sun.

When the Moon passes in front of the Sun, it casts two different types of shadows on Earth, the umbral shadow (umbra literally means “shadow” in Latin) and penumbral shadow. The umbral shadow is quite small, while the penumbral shadow covers a larger area of the Earth’s surface. In order to experience a total eclipse, you must be within the umbral shadow, or the path of totality, during the time of the eclipse.

The path of totality on August 21st was 70 miles wide, starting in Oregon and ending in South Carolina. However, everyone in the United States experienced a partial eclipse, even if they were not in the path of totality.

In Hopkinsville, Kentucky, syzygy* occurred for 2 minutes and 40 seconds. This was one of the longest periods of totality that could be viewed in the United States. Hopkinsville is a relatively short drive from our house and we decided to make the trek for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We drove to a friend’s farm and sat in a quiet, open, field to watch this awe-inspiring event.

At the time of totality, the birds stopped singing, the cicadas started chirping, and darkness fell upon us. There was a peaceful white light emanating from the Sun and it was beautiful. We even witnessed the dazzling “Diamond Ring effect” as totality ended. I am truly grateful to have experienced this event with my family.

*Syzygy occurs when three celestial bodies align perfectly. The word comes from the Greek word syzygos which means yoked or united together.

Insider’s Guide to the 2017 Scripps National Spelling Bee – Memorable Moments

Last night, we attended an awards banquet at which the top 15 finalists were honored. Afterwards, spellers went to a farewell dance party. The party is my favorite part of Bee Week because it’s a time to celebrate and relax!

One of the most memorable moments of this year’s Bee was when Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of Hamilton: An American Revolution, responded to a tweet about me with a “Go Tara!” I am a HUGE fan of Lin-Manual Miranda so this was a very exciting moment for me!

The Scripps National Spelling Bee celebrated its 90th Bee this year. To commemorate this milestone, Rookwood Pottery created a beautiful work of pottery for each speller. It features 4 books, each of which is inscribed with a different message relating to the Bee’s mission to “Inspire” students to “Discover” and “Achieve.” I will always treasure this amazing piece of pottery.

I hope you have enjoyed this journey with me! I have one year of eligibility left and I plan on working hard to make it back to the Scripps National Spelling Bee next year.